“Pursue your passion they say, follow your dreams they say!” But what if you didn’t know what that dream or passion might look like? Often times, as young people we mould our ideas and perspectives based on whatever is around us. So like most Singaporeans going through the public system of education, I was surrounded by the idea that STEM was the way to go. I was good at it, liked it, and was convinced that I loved it.
In Singapore, there is an abundance of research/STEM exposure for pre-tertiary students. Personally, I’ve participated in Math Olympiads, and research symposiums during my secondary school days (high school equivalent). And I really did enjoy it. I could see myself doing that as a career- or so I thought at the time. Currently, I’m coming to the end of my second year in university, doing a major in Life Sciences. While I still enjoy what I learn, these past four semesters have allowed me to open my eyes to what I am good at and what I am genuinely interested in. I had come to university with the end in mind: study life sciences with a minor in psychology. That’s it. My STEM background in secondary school and junior college (pre-university) had really shaped my motivations in what I wanted to pursue. I could not imagine myself doing anything else, because how could I when I did not know what else was out there?
Now comes the meat of this post, why I decided to start a business or more precisely what changed my career perspectives. So in my first semester, I took what has now become quite a dreaded module for all ‘non-computing’ undergrads: CS1010S. CS1010S is basically an introductory course to programming methodology, in my case it was taught in python. The ONLY reason why I took it at the time was that it was a compulsory module for all faculty of science undergrads. Let me tell you, as someone who was never exposed to the idea of computing, it was a pure nightmare. And it was not just because it was difficult for me to learn, but there seemed to be a stigma towards the subject in the first place. The other students from the faulty of science that were taking the course with me had a very discouraging attitude towards the module. It seemed that everyone was taking it for the sake of completion. I guess I picked up the same sentiments along the way. After the module, I knew I enjoyed learning about it but I told myself I wouldn’t touch computing again.
Fast-forward to my second semester, I was seriously considering a change in my major. I questioned why I was still studying what I was studying. A friend of mine was going through a similar crisis and we talked about what we would seriously consider doing after graduation. Would I be satisfied with doing research? Why am I afraid to venture elsewhere? Those were the questions in my head and that was the beginning of some serious thought into becoming self-employed. And so it began: the two of us started throwing business ideas back and forth, but nothing concrete was ever done. Dreamers on a cloud. Another semester passed, and I was still lacking direction.
Finally, enough was enough. I was either going to stop dreaming and do something about it, or stop dreaming and move on. I chose the former. I actively sought out ways to improve myself in terms of the technical skills I would need to start a business, interestingly enough that included taking another programming module in my third semester. Despite struggling to learn Java (a whole new world beyond what I did in my first semester), I was so glad I did because it really got me interested in the power of technology in businesses and problem-solving.
January this year, my friend (now business partner) and I have started on our milestones for this year. We began our marketing research, which is a topic for another day. I switched my plans to a business analytics minor.
Now, why I’m sharing this is also partly to document my journey but at the same time, I hope to encourage young people (in Singapore especially) of two things.
Don’t be boxed in by what you choose. (There’s still time to explore other options.)
If you want to do something, make small steps towards achieving those goals. (As cliche as it sounds.)